The Miracle of Christmas is for All Generations

The higher education institutions of the IPHC have served multiple generations of students. Begun in 1898, Holmes Bible College is the same age as the IPHC. Emmanuel College will be one hundred years old in 2019. Southwestern Christian University began in 1946. Advantage College began in 1976. In each instance, there are hundreds and thousands of changed lives who prayerfully and financially give so that thousands more can be educated in Christ-filled environments.

Over the past decade, each of these institutions has faced serious challenges. Yet, God continues to provide solutions and hope for each. For both Holmes and Emmanuel, the solutions have been dramatic as God has provided the finances and personnel needed for significant breakthroughs.
At Emmanuel, President Ron White set aside Saturday, October 20, as a day of thanksgiving to God for the numerous miracles of the past five years. For all of us present that day, it was a deeply moving experience to hear the testimonies of how God has demonstrated His faithfulness through countless people.

I mention this because we are in the Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons. My heart is filled with deep gratitude for our schools and for all who continue to stand with them. They need our support, now more than ever. I hope you will join me with end of the year contributions to each of them.
Emmanuel, originally founded as Franklin Springs Institute, celebrates its Centennial next year. One hundred years ago as he prepared for the opening on January 1, 1919, founder G.F. Taylor called the fledgling community together to pray on Tuesday night, December 31, 1918, from 8 until after midnight. No doubt they prayed for the opening of the school the next morning. But surely, they gave thanks for the conclusion of The Great War, World War I, which had closed with an armistice on November 11, 1918.

Those of us who gathered on October 20, 2018, in Franklin Springs, were standing on the shoulders of these prayer warriors. We did this because we believe the Holy Spirit continues to call successive waves of young men and women into the service of Jesus Christ, regardless their fields of study.

The Christmas season is a special time for us to think about the future within the context of how God works through the generations. My wife, Susan, and I are blessed with two young granddaughters who live near us. Their childlike wonder in this season warms their grandparent’s hearts.

In this season I’ve been reflecting on St. Luke 1 and 2 and St. Matthew 1 and 2. It’s a story of generations. For Zacharias and Elizabeth, it’s a story of a miracle birth in old age (Luke 1:7). While their exact ages are uncertain, the phrase in Luke 1:7 refers to people who are over sixty years of age. Mary, the mother of Jesus, was probably a young woman in her middle teens when she became pregnant. The man to whom she is espoused, Joseph, is old enough to understand the consequences of Mary’s pregnancy and wise enough to face it discreetly.

In my thinking, there are multiple miracles in these birth narratives. The older Zacharias and Elizabeth remind us of an even older Abraham and Sarah. Mary conceived as the Holy Spirit “overshadows” her. The Holy Spirit, not the angel Gabriel, entered the womb of the Virgin and created divine life, just as the Holy Spirit hovered over creation in Genesis 1:2.

The response of Joseph is another miracle that captures my attention (see Matthew 1:18-24). Upon discovering that his betrothed is pregnant, he responds with mercy that overshadows his own sorrow. How can Mary explain this? How can Joseph believe it? How can Joseph save his reputation? Why should Mary not be publicly humiliated? What keeps a wounded person from expressing public outrage upon another?

The answer to those questions is found in two aspects of Joseph’s life. First, Joseph is called a “just man” (Matthew 1:19). He is righteous in his own self. That righteousness is demonstrated in his concern for Mary’s reputation. Joseph’s first thoughts are not of himself; they are of her. His love covered a multitude of what he perceived to be “sins.” The righteousness of his character is not a form of self-justification. Rather, it denotes a heart and mind shaped by divine grace and the divine Word.

Secondly, Joseph was able to hear the angel of the Lord speak in a dream and reveal to him the power of the fulfilling Word (1:20-23). Like the dreamer Joseph of Genesis 37-50, this Joseph was open to hear God’s voice through dreams. In the dream, the angel reminded Joseph of his personal connection to his ancestor, Israel’s King David (1:20). He understood the Davidic promises and he was able to receive the divine Word in his present situation (2 Samuel 7:12-16). The Word, first reflected in the Davidic promise and secondly reflected in the Isaiah 7:14 quote, became the pathway of obedience for Joseph to walk as a new future unfolded.

In this holiday season, Susan and I pray that the miracles described in the birth narratives of our Lord will be fresh in your own life. Some of you are like Zacharias and Elizabeth, wondering if there is more the Lord has in your life. The answer is yes. You probably don’t want it to be a new baby, unless it’s a grandchild, but you still want purpose and fruitfulness in your lives.

You may be a young person like Mary, wanting to obey God in all areas of your life. Let the Holy Spirit overshadow you with divine love, peace, timing, and preparation. Some of us may be like Joseph. We need to trust when life doesn’t make sense. We need to remember God’s promises. And we need to remember God’s future!

Merry Christmas to all the IPHC family!

By Doug Beacham

This article was published in the November/December 2018 issue of Encourage.